(Apologizing for lame photo. It illustrates the smallest point in this post. Your 'baby' pics welcome in comments.)
My Doggie Has a First Name
(But mine's not 'Mom')
I love this Carol Leifer joke:
"I don't have any kids.... At least none I KNOW about."
Actually, she's written a million great jokes: That one's just coming to mind for a reason.
(Carol, I doubt that you're reading this, but your bit about the Yoo-Hoo guy is my favorite comedian/New York/late night all-in-one almost haiku perfect bit ever.)
I'm not one of those people who call my animals 'my kids'. There's a good reason for that. And anyone without kids who HAS animals knows what that reason is.
(Just a reminder: Literalists will be taken out and shot. Again. Still. #hoeswritinglongfbcomments)
For me - and no one else, by the way - there is something semi- presumptuous about likening human offspring, biological or otherwise, to adorable furry/feathered/scaled dependents, even we/I do spend lots of love, time and money on the little buggers.
They didn't ask to come to my house. Seems keeping them in reasonable condition is a bottom line part of the deal. Although I will accept kudos for keeping the cat Mitzi (#kittysuicidenotes)
after her pissing on the bed spell that has, mercifully for us both, ended.
In my case, calling the animals my kids would be like standing on a coffee table and buying the 'I Climbed Everest' T-shirt. Get it? I mean, sure, somebody would sell me the thing, but come on. How sad is that.
If you're anything like me - ha! And by that, of course, I mean childless with a tendency to ruminate on folly not yet committed - you've had those thoughts. The 'what if I'd had some little humans' thoughts.
For anyone with children who suspects that I don't know what parenthood entails, I submit this telling anecdote:
At the ripe age of TEN, I actually told my own Mother, "If I were you, I'd move away when we were at school."
Now think I don't appreciate the enormity of the gig? (I know. I just called the sacred job of parenting a 'gig'. You'll live.)
My friends know that the critters who live here mean plenty to me. Roger, the big poodle, has been here for over six years and has carved his own place in my heart - and also in just about anyone else's he's ever met. Even big tough guys who didn't think they could see loving a giant poodle. Our favorite line came from a good old boy back home who watched Roger play with our horses. He grimaced and said, "He looks like a tampon with a collar on it.'
We named Roger after a great friend and one of the funniest comedians/writers ever - Roger Rittenhouse. There are very few stand-ups whose act I memorized: Roger may be one of three.
They look nothing alike, if you're wondering. It's just that this dog seemed to smile like nobody's business. Roger the Funny has a smile like that even if we suspect that it's origins are causally unique. (And unlike the canine Roger, I'm not sure I want to know WHY the human Roger is grinning at any given moment.)
Still. When we name any animal, we're reminded that they're NOT children. I'm still not sure my Mom believes I truly know that based on her observation that, "You know they'll never leave home and make you proud, right?"
If I didn't know it before, it's definitely dawning on me, Mom.
This happened two weeks ago...
Picking up Roger's prescription and seeing this on the label was one of those randomly weird moments/multiplicity kind of things where, just for the briefest of seconds, it seemed possible. Even if the name sounds like a British porn star. (Wait. ARE there any British porn stars? Don't answer that. Seriously. Don't. There are some things I'm proud NOT to know.)
All these sweet kiddos - um, I mean PETS, dammit - and their names rolling by not just in my head but mostly way inside my heart...
In no particular order and definitely missing several, there was...
Miss Ruby, who lived almost nineteen years. She was the first Shih Tzu and why we got hooked. Dear fierce little big Tallulah girl. Vinnie Boy, giant grey kitty who'd let kittens suckle him. Big Earl the 145 lb hunka puppy who left way too soon but not before six precious years in his light. Ted, the orange and white cat who knocked his 'for adoption' sign off the top of his crate after we met him, signaling that HE'D decided even if I was too stupid to know it. Leon the Shih Tzu whose underbite was pronounced enough to warrant this, from an observer, "I wonder if you could open a German beer bottle with those babies."
Where We Seriously Think About This
I'm sure there are better owners than I am. It's actually a miracle that they're still here because when push came to shove, several years ago and we all had to go 3000 miles in no time, it happened. Not because I'm noble. Mostly because I love them and can't imagine life without them. They didn't exactly pick me. I'm the one who made the promises.
We made it all the way in time for the job and anyone who's ever driven 3000 miles with a litter box inside the vehicle realizes that the line between love and downright f-ing nuts is less than the space between 'Roger' and 'Butler'.
I'm no hero:
I try to remember their flea stuff on time. I try not to pull you along when I want to walk faster and you seem to dawdle doing what dogs are supposed to do, for goodness sakes. If we both need to go, I can dance a bit waiting for you to tinkle first. After all - you can't turn the door handle. It's not your fault I got up late.
Wherein We Realize Cat Piss is the Least of Our Problems
But no matter how wonderful this has been - where I say I wouldn't trade it for the world - today something happened in the real life of a friend with a Real Human Child today that this can't hold a candle to - and shouldn't...
A few years ago, our friends adopted a toddler daughter who was classified as "special needs". All special needs, as in every illness, has spectrums of severity. Because having or adopting a child isn't like getting a car, you don't really get to take one back and say, "Um, I know we agreed on 'x' special need, but this is a little TOO special." Their daughter has a chromosomal difference plus physical issues and has been developing at the lower functioning end of these traits. Specifically, although it's not characteristic of Down Syndrome kids, she's been non-verbal. She's happy and watching her grow physically and in terms of adjustment after years in an orphanage has been a gift in itself - and I'm not even in their inner circle.
And in these couple of hard years with more medical emergencies than I and my four sisters had all together, I've never heard or seen expressed anything but sheer love for and delight in this kiddo's progress. Frankly, the fact that she's alive at all with her particular CHD is the first miracle.
The second miracle happened today.
After pretty much hearing from all the specialists in the field, their little girl went and proved them all wrong in the best way. It happened suddenly as miracles are wont to happen. Our girl wanted something and as she reached for it, said, "Mama!" to our friend.
I didn't cry when I heard about it, but I am now.
So to all of you who hang in with your kids, your friends, yeah, even your animals, without taking the love down a notch, while enduring perhaps disappointing or scary things that didn't seem part of the deal, this hug's for you.
You've been hella fine examples of what we wanna be when we grow up.